When is a Porsche not a Porsche? When it’s a rare racing Porsche once owned by renowned American actor Robert Redford.
OK, so it’s still a Porsche, but a very, very nice one: a 1964 Porsche 904 GTS, one of the last great four-cylinder racers built by the Stuttgart marque – and, yes, it spent several years stabled with the Hollywood star.
What’s more, it’s going under the hammer in January at Bonhams’ Scottsdale auction. So, bid smart and you could be sitting where the Sundance Kid once sat.
The 904 was a two-seat competition machine that could also be driven on the street. Technically called the Carrera GTS, it cut a dash even in the era of coachbuilt Ferraris and majestic Aston Martins – and it was a dream to drive.
Wrapped in a glassfibre shell – a first for the German firm – the 904 was initially powered by Porsche’s proven four-cylinder motor, though the engine bay was built big enough to take a six-cylinder block in the future.
With its lightweight body and ladder chassis, the Porsche was very much designed to race. And race it did, claiming wins at Sebring, the Nürburgring, Spa Francorchamps, Reims, the Targa Florio and, of course, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it took the top four positions in its class.
Alas, development waits for no car and the 904 was soon trumped by Porsche’s own 906 with its space-frame chassis – which meant just 100 of the beautiful 904 racers were ever built, including the one that’s up for auction with Bonhams.
Finished in 1964, the 904 that’s up for grabs in Scottsdale – chassis 904 012 – was only the second GTS delivered to a private customer, after the factory racing cars.
It was ordered new by enthusiast and racer Steve Earle, and the Californian had every intention of using his new machine on track in the ’64 season – which meant it had to be shipped quick from Stuttgart.
Chassis 904 012 was therefore put on a pallet, loaded on to a PanAm plane and flown to JFK Airport in New York in January 1964 – probably with a lot more care than your suitcase gets.
For all the efforts, though, it seems Earle never actually raced his GTS. Sold to him through Otto Zipper’s Precision Motor Cars in Beverly Hills, he shortly moved it on to another Steve – Steve Berg – through the same merchant.
At this point it did go racing: under the Otto Zipper name and with Hollywood producer Kurt Neumann at the helm, the GTS competed at several events throughout the year, and even starred on the cover of Road and Track.
Following the ’64 season, it gained a new dark blue paint job with a dashing silver nose, and fresh brakes. Berg then took it racing under his own name, entering events at the likes of Laguna Seca and Willow Springs, before selling it in 1966.
It was at this point that Robert Redford purchased the Porsche, just three years before taking one of his most memorable roles as the Sundance Kid in (obviously) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The actor held on to the 904 for the better part of a decade, keeping the stunning machine stabled in California, before eventually selling it to a San Diego racer and enthusiast – and it was around this time that the original four-cylinder block (in need of a restoration) was removed.
By 1982, the rare Porsche found its way into the hands of Stefan Talpe, who went on to own it for 34 years. During his custodianship, it underwent a restoration which saw a period 2-litre 911 engine sourced and fitted – the same type that the Porsche factory put in late GTS machines.
It was also repainted in a fetching shade of Irish Green by a Belgian specialist – a correct colour for Porsches of the period – and given a thorough mechanical overhaul, as detailed by the documents and photos bundled with the lot.
The result? A rare racing Porsche that’s in incredible, almost entirely original condition other than the engine – which, research suggests, still exists somewhere in the world. Best fetch your detective’s hat.
Its current owner is a Danish Porsche collector who bought the GTS in 2016. Fitted with a new clutch, the 904 has been used sparingly over the last few years, leaving it in fantastic condition and ready to drive.
Interested? The Bonhams Scottsdale auction is set for 17 January 2019. The price? You’ll have to ask Bonhams – but, as a benchmark, a 904 sold at the RM Sotheby’s Arizona sale in 2015 for $1.6m. So you can imagine this one won’t go cheap.